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S. Korean destroyer heads back home from Africa after pandemic hits anti-piracy unit

Defense 10:30 July 21, 2021

SEOUL, July 21 (Yonhap) -- A Navy destroyer departed from an African port on Wednesday to return home, the defense ministry said, following the early return of the country's anti-piracy Cheonghae unit battered by the new coronavirus.

The 4,400-ton Munmu the Great left the port at around 1 a.m. (Seoul time), hours after the 34th contingent of the naval unit arrived here on aerial tankers dispatched to airlift all of the troops following an unprecedented mass COVID-19 outbreak that infected 247, or 82 percent, of the 301-member unit.

The vessel is expected to arrive in South Korea in about 50 days, according to officials.

The mass outbreak marked the worst-ever cluster infection reported among service members since the military reported its first coronavirus case in February last year.

Vice Defense Minister Park Jae-min said the authorities will conduct contact tracing to figure out the exact route of the infections.

A replacement contingent has arrived at the mission area and begun operations. Most of the members of the new batch received COVID-19 vaccines before their departure, officials said.

In this photo provided by the defense ministry, the 4,400-ton destroyer Munmu the Great departs from an African port on July 21, 2021, for South Korea after the 34th contingent of the country's anti-piracy Cheonghae Unit cut short their mission and returned home the previous day, following an unprecedented mass COVID-19 outbreak in the military that infected hundreds of sailors who were aboard the vessel. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE)(Yonhap)

scaaet@yna.co.kr
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